Have I been to Milan?
I don’t know.
Two of my favorite blogs, Begin with a Single Step and At the Library, have in the past month touched on the question that has probably occurred at one point or another to many travelers: when do you say you’ve been to a place?
It’s not even just for counting or bragging purposes; in my travel manifesto, I promised to try not to count countries, and so far I’ve successfully [not] done that. But sometimes you just have to decide. Visa application forms, for example, ask you to list down the countries you’ve visited in the last, oh, 10 years. I was in Taipei last year (twice!) on layovers between Manila and Amsterdam, but it would be a mighty stretchy stretch to say I’ve been to Taiwan as both times we were quickly ushered from plane to boarding gate with no chance for any cultural encounter whatsoever. (And I suppose there’s the whole question of whether Taiwan is an independent country or a prodigal province of China, but I hardly have the expertise or even the impartiality to effectively open that can of worms.)
Milan isn’t a country, obviously, but still. I suppose I’ve sort of been to Milan. I spent just over two hours in Milano Centrale, most of it in McDonald’s (yes, yes, not a very smart or savvy-traveler thing to do) where we were 10% eating, 90% keeping an eye (and in my case, an arm and a leg) on our belongings so as not to get stolen from. I don’t think I can say I’ve actually visited Milan, but my non-visit was one of the most interesting experiences from that entire trip.
When do you say you’ve been to a place?